Wreaking Havoc on Scientific Materialism: C.S. Lewis on Natural Law and Divine Action in Nature
by Melissa Cain Travis
There are two rather standard responses from materialist scientists and philosophers to the suggestion that a creator God guides the development and sustains the order of nature:
1) Our current scientific theories on the evolution of all things are sufficient to explain all natural phenomena. The idea of a creator has been rendered superfluous.
2) Science doesn’t have it all figured out, and truth be told, it may never give us comprehensive knowledge of natural history or a full explanation for the stability and regularities of the cosmos, but plugging God into these knowledge gaps is no better than the ancient Greek practice of attributing thunderstorms to Zeus.
Standard practice for an apologist faced with such statements is to describe the evidence for cosmic and biological design or the shortcomings of naturalistic theories when it comes to explaining the indications of rationality in nature. The apologist uses science to argue for a God-designed, God-guided natural world. This is a solid technique and one that I often use. However, it isn’t the only angle from which to approach such a discussion, which is great news for faith-defenders lacking scientific expertise.
In the C.S. Lewis collection God in the Dock, there are two essays that are incredibly insightful and instructive. Lewis was not a scientist, though he knew a great deal about the reigning theories of his era and commented upon them in many of his writings. But he was wise to the fact that, more
often than not, the core issue is philosophical, though the materialist scientist rarely recognizes this. Lewis’s tactic for dealing with materialist claims such as those above was quite powerful, as we see in “Religion and Science” and “The Laws of Nature.”
In the first essay, Lewis addresses the question of divine intervention in nature. He sets up a Socratic dialogue between himself and a materialist who insists that “modern science” has proven that there’s no transcendent cause for the workings of nature.
“But, don’t you see,” said I, “that science never could show anything of the sort?”
“Why on earth not?”
“Because science studies Nature. And the question is whether anything besides Nature exists—anything ‘outside.’ How could you find that out by studying simply Nature?”
This is a key point that is all too often missed by those claiming that science has ruled out the existence of God. But Lewis’s interlocutor persists in his objections…
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